Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
Five nuggets of information about Week 9.
Don't fire up the little man. I know New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was only joking when he said the only way to stop Carolina receiver Steve Smith was to make sure he didn’t get up. But you don’t joke around about Smith, who will take any perceived slight or just make up his own perceived slight and use it as fuel for the rage that makes him what he is.
Trap game? New Orleans fans are talking about the Saints going undefeated. I think that’s at least a possibility, especially when I look at their schedule. I see Atlanta, New England and Dallas as the only teams that, theoretically, could give them trouble. However, that’s just theoretically. The reality is the Saints are coming off a game against the Falcons on Monday night that was physically and emotionally draining. If there’s ever a time for a letdown, this could be it. But the Panthers are going to have to play like they did last week in Arizona and not like they did at the start of the season to have any chance.
Rebound time. The Falcons have lost back-to-back games for the first time since coach Mike Smith has been in Atlanta. We don’t predict games here, but I will say the streak won’t reach three. Two reasons for that: The Falcons found out they’re pretty good, despite losing to the Saints on Monday night. More importantly, they’re hosting the Redskins.
All rookies, all the time. We all know rookie Josh Freeman is starting at quarterback for Tampa Bay against Green Bay. That’s obviously a big story and it’s going to have huge implications on the future of this franchise. But I’m just as curious to see if Tampa Bay goes full force with the rest of its youth movement. I mean, why not start wide receiver Sammie Stroughter and defensive tackle Roy Miller? Yes, they both are rookies. But I’ll make a case that Stroughter can contribute at least as much as Michael Clayton and Antonio Bryant. I’ll go further and make a case that Miller is better than Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims, who have been the starters this year. Those guys shouldn’t have even been on the team this year. If you disagree, go back and look at the film of last December’s game in Carolina.
Time for Brooks to make it official. Tampa Bay is going to induct Lee Roy Selmon as the first member of the team’s Ring of Honor on Sunday. No argument here. Selmon is the only Hall of Famer in franchise history. But all this makes me wonder about Derrick Brooks. He still hasn’t officially retired, even though he’s signing up for every broadcasting gig that comes along. Little advice to Brooks: Let Selmon get his due. Then, in a week or two, call a press conference and make your retirement official. You’re the best player in franchise history and in NFC South history. The sooner you truly retire, the sooner you’ll get into the Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Heck, why not just grab the microphone when Selmon's done and get it over with?